Memorial planned for North Fork firemen who gave their lives

KATHARINE SCHROEDER FILE PHOTO | The osprey monument to Sept. 11 at Cochran Park in Peconic could be surrounded by a memorial to area firemen killed in the line of duty,

After nearly a decade of looking for an appropriate site, the Southold Town Fire Chiefs Council may finally have found a place for a memorial honoring local firefighters killed in the line of duty.

The fire chiefs are talking with Southold Town about building a memorial to encircle the heron sculpture moved from Greenport to become the town’s 9/11 memorial at Cochran Park in Peconic.

Council president Tony Volinski said preliminary plans for the monument include a column for each of the town’s six fire departments, with a brick wall running between them and room on each one for a plaque for the names of fallen firefighters.

Mattituck ex-chief Jim Lessard, who drew up the plans, said he’s waiting to hear from the departments about how many names would be listed. He believes there are four or five firefighters who have perished in the line of duty: two from Greenport, one from Southold and one from Mattituck.

The Greenport firefighters, Richie Syzc and Bruce Bellefontaine, died in 1977 when they entered a burning house to rescue a young man they thought was still inside, said Mr. Volinski. It turned out he was not in the building.

Mr. Lessard said the fire chiefs had been planning to buy property from Suffolk County several years ago for a firefighters memorial wall and parking lot at the corner of Boisseau Avenue and Route 48 in Southold. But, he said, it was a costly proposition to buy the land and the county decided not to make necessary changes to the traffic flow at the intersection, so the plan was nixed.

Southold Town Councilman Chris Talbot presented the new plan to the town parks and recreation committee on Jan. 24 and, according to the committee’s minutes, the members believe this project “will be a beautiful addition to the 9/11 memorial.”

Mr. Talbot, who is also a volunteer firefighter, said he hopes the project intertwines the service of local firemen with the deaths on Sept. 11 of both firemen and “people who got killed for going to work that day.”

The fire chiefs will meet next Monday to discuss the plans, said Mr. Volinski. They have yet to determine whether to use a buy-a-brick campaign to help fund the project.

“We’ve got an idea what it’s going to cost. We may need to do fundraising,” he said. “Each department has chipped in in years past, but we’re not sure how much it’s going to be. We have to figure out the exact amount.”

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